An alpine lake in the foothills of the Alps near Munich.
Winter view of Neuschwanstein Castle as seen from the Marienbruecke (Mary's Bridge). This castle is the best known of the three royal palaces built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The design and decoration of the castle pay homage to various medieval legends.
Flower boxes overlook a street in Ottweiler, a town in the Saarland region that dates back to the late 14th century. In the second half of the 18th century Ottweiler was renowned for its fine white porcelain, but the industry closed and today Ottweiler porcelain is some of the rarest in the world.


Listen to Terri's overview of German culture and customs. Click "play" above.
Conventional Long Form:Federal Republic of Germany
Local Long Form:Bundesrepublik Deutschland
Local Short Form:Deutschland
Short Form:Germany
Population:80,457,737 (2019 estimate due to migration.)
Median Age:47.4 years (2018 est.)
GDP per Capita:$50,800 (2017 est.)
Gross National Saving:28% of GDP (2017 est.)
Legal Drinking Age:14 years of age with adult supervision; 16 years of age for beer and wine; 18 years of age for spirits
Road Driving Side:Right hand side of the road

Holidays and Observances

Business Practices

Punctuality, Appointments, and Local Time

  • Nowhere in the world is punctuality more important than in Germany. Be ten minutes early, or at least on time for every appointment, whether for business or social engagements.
  • Arriving just four or five minutes late can be insulting to a German executive, especially if you are in a subordinate position.
  • When writing the date, Germans write the day first, then the month, then the year (e.g., December 3, 2025, is written 3.12.25 or 3/12/25).
  • Appointments should be made well in advance. Try to give about one week’s notice for an appointment. If you don’t have that much lead time, a short preliminary meeting may sometimes be arranged on short notice.
  • Still, be aware that if your contact is on vacation, the response may be a long time in coming. Most Germans take at least six weeks of (paid) vacation per year.
  • If more than one German is consistently copied on e-mail, this indicates that both of them must be in agreement before a decision is made.
  • Understand the titles and responsibilities of the individuals you try to contact.  Unless you have a personal introduction, attempting to connect with executives who far outrank you is often futile.
  • Do not schedule appointments on Friday afternoons; some offices close by 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. on Fridays. Many people take long vacations during July, August, and December, so check first to see if your counterpart will be available. Also be aware that little work gets done during regional festivals, such as the Oktoberfest or the three-day Carnival before Lent.
  • Germany is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (G.M.T. + 1). This makes it six hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time (E.S.T. + 6).
  • Germans use a twenty-four-hour clock. In German, midnight is null Uhr (zero hour).
  • When identifying a half-hour, the usage in German is unlike the usage in English. Where an Englishman might refer to 9:30 a.m. as “half-nine,” a German may call the same time “half-ten.” If you are in doubt, ask for clarification.


  • The pace of German corporate decision-making is methodical—much slower than in Great Britain or the USA.
  • The decision-making process in German firms can be a mystery to outsiders. In addition to the official chain of command, German companies often have a parallel “hidden” series of advisers and decision-makers. The approval of this informal “cabinet” is mandatory.
  • Directness is appreciated. Germans may bluntly criticize your product or your company; don’t take it personally.
  • Germans abhor hype and exaggeration. Be sure you can back up your claims with lots of data. Case studies and examples are highly regarded.
  • Be prepared to supply reams of information at short notice. Some of the requests may seem trivial; be assured that they are important to the Germans.
  • The German reputation for quality is based (in part) on slow, methodical planning. Every aspect of the deal you propose will be pored over by various executives. Do not anticipate being able to speed up this process. This orientation towards detail extends through all business affairs. Germans believe that it takes time to do a job properly.
  • German punctuality does not extend to delivery dates. Products may be delivered late without either explanation or apology.
  • Germans also take a lot of time to establish a close business relationship. Their apparent coldness at the beginning will vanish over time. Once they get to know you, Germans are quite gregarious.
  • German bookkeeping practices historically allowed a high degree of secrecy. It was exceedingly difficult (if not impossible) to get a German company to reveal a true and accurate financial record. Due to EU requirements, this is changing.
  • Even if the German executives speak your language, all promotional materials and instruction manuals should be translated into German.
  • Bring plenty of business cards; quite a few Germans may wish to exchange them with you.
  • If your company has been around for many years, the date of its founding should be on your business card. If you have a large number of employees, that number may be included too.
  • Since education is highly respected in Germany, consider including any title above the bachelor’s level on your card.
  • Germans may or may not socialize before getting down to work. It is quite possible that you will walk into an office and start talking business immediately after introducing yourself.
  • If your German associates decide to chat at the beginning of a meeting, expect to be asked about your flight, your accommodations, where you are from, and so forth.
  • Germans smile to indicate affection. They generally do not smile in the course of business, either at customers or at coworkers.
  • Business is serious; Germans do not appreciate humor in a business context. It is a waste of time.
  • Compliments tend to embarrass Germans; they expect to neither give nor receive them. They assume that everything is satisfactory unless they hear otherwise.
  • When a problem arises, be prepared to explain it clearly, in detail, and unemotionally. You may have to do this in writing. Germans are not accustomed to informally “passing the word.”
  • Never follow the U.S. business habit of saying something positive before saying something negative. This compliment/complaint juxtaposition will sound contradictory to Germans, and they may reject your entire statement.
  • Privacy is extremely important to Germans. Doors are kept closed, both at work and at home. Always knock on a closed door and wait to be admitted.
  • Avoid asking personal questions of a German executive. If a businessperson wants you to know if he or she is married or has children, he or she will find a way to communicate this to you. Family life is kept separate from work in Germany.
  • Obviously, embarrassing political questions should be avoided. Do not ask about the Second World War or anti-Semitism.
  • Germans tend to be well informed about politics and to have firm political opinions. They are also direct and honest, and may tell you their opinions about your country (or its actions), even if these opinions are negative.
  • Sports are a good topic for conversation. Many Germans are passionate soccer fans; skiing, hiking, cycling, and tennis are also popular. Less well-known sports enjoyed by Germans include ice-skating, curling, and gliding.

Business Entertaining

  • Breakfast meetings are still less common in Germany. However, business lunches are customary.
  • At lunch, be aware that business may be discussed before and (sometimes) after a meal, but never during the meal itself. If you are invited out to lunch, you may offer to pay, but expect your host to decline your offer. Insist on paying only when you have made the invitation.
  • Be on time to social events. Drinks are served before the meal, but usually with few appetizers. The meal itself will start soon after.
  • Germans do not often entertain business associates in their homes. If you are invited to a home, consider it an honor.
  • When eating, always use utensils; very few items are eaten with the hands. Place your utensils vertically side by side on the plate when you are finished eating.
  • Ask permission if you would like to smoke, and always offer your cigarettes to everyone else before lighting up.  Of course, ascertain if smoking is banned at your location.

Business Tips

  • In business matters, Germans do not like the unexpected. Sudden changes—even if they may improve the outcome—are unwelcome.
  • Whether you know German or use your own language, speak in complete sentences. Make it obvious when a sentence is complete; don’t let your sentences trail off. In the German language, the most important word in a sentence is usually the final one. Germans are in the habit of listening for the end of a sentence, and can be annoyed if it doesn’t materialize.
  • The trade fair (aka, trade show, exhibition, trade conference) was largely invented in Germany. Germany hosts a tremendous number of international trade fairs, so participation in their conferences is key.
  • In general, German workers neither need nor expect compliments. They assume everything is satisfactory unless they hear otherwise.
  • If you want to be taken seriously in Germany, modulate your voice to avoid high tones. Full voices in a low register are respected in Germany. Businesspeople—including women—often pitch their voices as low as possible.



  • In business situations, most Germans shake hands at both the beginning and the end of a meeting.
  • The German handshake may be accompanied by a slight nod of the head. Although this gesture is subtle, it is important.
  • While Germans are open and generous with close friends, they tend to be formal and reserved in public. You will not see many smiles or displays of affection on German streets.
  • The avoidance of public spectacle is reflected in the way Germans will get quite close to each other before offering a greeting. Only the young and the impolite wave or shout at each other from a distance.
  • To get someone’s attention, raise your hand, palm facing out, with only the index finger extended. Don’t wave or beckon.
  • When sitting, cross one knee over the other, rather than resting your ankle over one knee. Do not prop your feet on anything other than a footstool.
  • The eldest or highest-ranking person generally enters a room first.
  • Many traditional practices of etiquette have changed in the last few decades; however, if you are with senior executives, behave in the most formal, reserved manner possible.
  • Do not talk to someone while chewing gum.
  • Expect to be hushed if you as much as cough while attending an opera, play, or concert. German audiences remain extraordinarily silent, rarely even shifting in their seats.
  • Carry a good supply of business cards.
  • Extended, direct eye contact is expected when conversing. Failure to meet a German’s gaze will give the impression that you are untrustworthy.
  • Never put your hands in your pockets for longer than it takes to retrieve an object. Germans find it insulting when people speak to them with their hands in their pockets.

Titles/Forms of Address

  • The order of names in Germany is the same as in most of Europe: the first name followed by the surname.
  • Traditionally, only family members and close friends addressed each other by their first names. You may never establish a close enough relationship with a senior German colleague to get to a first-name basis; however, younger Germans will move relatively quickly to a first-name basis.
  • When speaking to persons who do not have professional titles, use “Mr.,” “Ms.,” “Mrs.,” or “Miss,” plus the surname. In German, these titles are:
    • = Herr
    • (or Mrs.) = Frau
    • Miss = Fräulein
  • Fräulein is now used only for young women (under age eighteen). Any businesswoman you meet should be addressed as “Frau,” plus her surname, whether or not she is married.
  • It is very important to use professional titles. Attorneys, engineers, pastors, and other professionals will expect you to address them as “Herr” or “Frau” plus their title. This goes for anyone with a Ph.D. as well (e.g., Herr (or Frau) Doctor/Professor). However, make sure you know the correct professional title.
  • When entering or leaving a shop, it is considered polite to say “hello” and “goodbye” to the salesperson.
  • There are significant regional variations in behavior throughout Germany. For example, Bavarians have a reputation for being warm, hospitable, and casual: they tend to progress quickly from formal to informal speech and from surnames to first names. Do not expect northern Germans to behave this way.


  • German businessmen do not give or expect to receive expensive gifts. However, if you intend to give one, a gift should be of good quality but not of exorbitant cost. Gifts that are small in size are preferred.
  • German civil servants are prohibited from accepting any form of gift whatsoever.
  • Appropriate gifts include good-quality pens, reasonably priced electronics, or imported liquor. Gifts from your home region or country are good choices, such as an illustrated book of your home city.
  • Many Germans enjoy outdoor activities, so interesting hiking or camping gifts may be appropriate.  Mementos from National Parks near you in the USA can act as thoughtful invitations to visit.
  • The only article of clothing considered a suitable gift is a scarf. Other clothing, perfumes, etc. are considered too personal.
  • An invitation to dinner at a German home is an important gesture, and you should send a bouquet of flowers ahead of time for your host. The bouquet should not be ostentatiously large and should have an uneven number of flowers (but not thirteen). Do not choose red roses; they have romantic connotations. Also avoid such funeral flowers as white carnations, white chrysanthemums, and calla lilies. In Northern Germany, do not include heather in a bouquet. (Because of its hardy nature, heather is often planted on graves, and deemed bad luck to bring into a house.)
  • While imported liquor is appropriate, a gift of a locally available wine might be interpreted as saying that your host’s wine cellar is inadequate. However, a good wine brought from your home country (one not sold in Germany) or a top-quality imported red wine will be appreciated.
  • Germans make some of the finest beers in the world, so it is unlikely that you could bring a foreign beer that would truly impress them.
  • Business gifts are usually given at Christmastime, although many German companies restrict themselves to sending minor items – if any at all.


  • Business dress in Germany is conservative, but it depends upon the industry. Businessmen often wear dark suits, sedate ties, and white shirts. However, blue blazers and gray flannel pants are also considered formal. Women often dress conservatively as well, in suits, pantsuits, and blouses of a neutral color.
  • Executives in high tech, or the clothing industries may wear more relaxed, fashionable, or sports attire to the office.
  • Follow the lead of your German colleague with regard to removing your jacket or tie in hot weather. Do not be surprised if he or she remains fully dressed in sweltering heat.
  • Business wear is also appropriate for most formal social events: parties, dinners, and the theater. Remember that you are obliged to check your coat in German theaters; if you tend to be cold, bring a sweater.
  • Casual wear consists of comfortable shirts and jeans, although these clothes should be clean and in good repair. Most German men wear sandals during the summer.



After the fall of the Roman Empire, Germany was unified under Charlemagne, who established a kingdom that encompassed much of Western Europe in A.D. 800. Charlemagne divided his holdings among his sons, and the first all-Germanic kingdom dates back to this division.

The first strong German king was Otto I, who defeated invading Danes, Slavs, and Magyars (Hungarians). In A.D. 926, Pope John XII crowned Otto I as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, a loosely organized domain that stretched from Germany down into northern Italy. To modern Germans, this Holy Roman Empire was the “First Reich.”

The Holy Roman Empire encompassed many semiautonomous principalities that often fought with each other. The internecine warfare increased after Martin Luther’s successful Reformation in 1519. Some areas remained Roman Catholic while others adopted Protestant beliefs. This conflict cumulated in the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648).

In 1740, Frederick II (“the Great”) became ruler of Prussia. He greatly expanded Prussia’s territory by annexing small German principalities (not to mention about a third of Poland). Prussia soon became one of Europe’s great powers and began competing with Austria for leadership among the German-speaking peoples.

Napoleon I conquered most of Germany in 1806. This led to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.

By the eighteenth century, two German-speaking kingdoms had come to dominate Central Europe: Prussia and Austria. Austria felt it was in its interest to keep the German principalities separate; Prussia wanted to unite (and rule) them. Austria’s Metternich succeeded in replacing the Holy Roman Empire with a loose union called “the German Confederation” (the Bund). But Prussia eventually won out when Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck led his country into war, first against Denmark, then against Austria and the Austrian-allied German kingdoms, then against France.

As a result of Bismarck’s efforts, the Prussian King William I was crowned Kaiser (emperor) of all Germany in 1871. The German nation dates its existence from this event. This “Second Reich” was to last until Germany’s defeat in the First World War.

After the First World War, Germany became a republic. Burdened with enormous war reparations and the Great Depression, Germany fell into the hands of the “National Socialists,” as they are known to Germans—the term “Nazi” was rarely used within Germany. The atrocities of Adolf Hitler’s “Third Reich” present a moral dilemma that each new generation of Germans must face.

At the end of World War II, Germany was occupied by England, France, the United States, and the USSR. This resulted in the division of Germany into the capitalist, NATO-allied Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), and the Communist, Warsaw Pact German Democratic Republic (or GDR). Berlin was also divided into West and East. Consequently, Bonn was selected as the capital of West Germany. Only the changed priorities of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union allowed the two halves of Germany to reunite on October 3, 1990.

As the largest and most populous nation in the European Union, the reunited Germany has developed into a leading power, and a principle member of the European Union.


The reunited Federal Republic of Germany is a democratic federal multiparty republic. Voting is done by proportional representation. There are two legislative houses: the Federal Council and the Federal Diet. The president is the chief of state, and the chancellor is the head of the government.

Abjuring from military intervention after the Second World War, Germany influenced the world via "checkbook diplomacy," contributing far more than its share to international organizations. Germany gave much more to the European Union than it gained in return.  Germany also vigorously opposed the Second Gulf War.

German governmental concerns include immigration, climate change, Brexit, and continuing issues pertaining to the former East Germany.  Germany's relationship with the USA was somewhat strained during the prior administration, but is healthier now.

Germany’s first female chancellor, Angela Merkel, assumed the office on November 22nd, 2005, and served until 2021.  During her long tenure, Chancellor Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world, and the de facto leader of the European Union.

As of February, 2024, Germany's President and Chancellor are:

  • President Frank-Walter STEINMEIER
  • Chancellor Olaf SCHOLZ

You can find a current list of Government Officials of Germany on the CIA's website here:

Germany - World Leaders (


The official language of Germany is German, which is called Deutsch. has identified nineteen living languages spoken in Germany. The extant languages include variants of German as diverse as Bavarian and Western Yiddish.   German is one of the official languages of the European Union, and one of three used in the European Commission.

German has many dialects. The accepted national dialect is High German (or Hochdeutsch). It gained prominence after Martin Luther translated the Bible into High German in 1534.  Low German (Plattdeutsch) was spoken in many low-lying northern regions of Germany.  The major difference between the two dialects is the sound of consonants.

English and French are two of the foreign languages that Germans commonly study. This is especially true among executives. Germans who grew up in the former German Democratic Republic were forced to study Russian in school. This is no longer the case, but you may find fewer English speakers in eastern Germany.

For more information on the various languages of Germany, see Ethnologue at

Good morningGuten Morgenlisten
Good-byeAuf Wiedersehenlisten
Excuse meEntschuldigunglisten
Good afternoonGuten Taglisten
Good eveningGuten Abendlisten
How are youWie geht es Ihnenlisten
Thank youDankelisten
Fine, thanksDanke, gutlisten
Yes, pleaseJa, bittelisten
No, thank youNein, dankelisten
Pleased to meet youSchön, Sie kennenzulernenlisten
I don't speak GermanIch spreche kein Deutschlisten
What is your nameWie ist Ihr Namelisten
Do you speak EnglishSprechen Sie Englischlisten
My name is...Meine Name ist...listen
What is it called in GermanWie heißt das auf Deutschlisten
Where is...Wo ist...listen
Is it nearbyIst es in der Nähelisten
I would like...Ich möchte...listen
How much is itWas kostet eslisten
Could you repeat thatKönnten Sie das wiederholenlisten
Could you say it more slowlyBitte sagen Sie es langsalisten
Sorry, I don't understandIch verstehe es leider nichtlisten
...a glass of wine...ein Glas Weinlisten
...a beer...ein Bierlisten
...a coffee...einen Kaffeelisten
...a tea...einen Teelisten
...fruit juice...einen Saftlisten
...mineral water...ein Mineralwasserlisten
I'm from...Ich komme aus...listen
...the United States...den USAlisten
...from England...Englandlisten
...from Australia...Australienlisten


One reason for Germany's strong economy is its citizens. Germans save far more money every year than people from the United States of America.  The amount they save varies, but is generally around a fifth (20%) of their disposable income.  When Germans do shop, they usually go for items they have already researched, and seek out the lowest price. When they find it, they buy it and go home. In general, Germans do not consider shopping to be a form of entertainment; aimlessly wandering through store after store is wasteful to them.

When Germans do purchase items, they prefer to pay in full.  Debt is anathema for Germans, and the word Schulden (debt) in German, comes from the word Schuld (guilt).

German manufacturing has a reputation for high quality, which German consumers demand. Any visible, public failures of quality control are a cause for worry within Germany's society, not just the individual company involved.

Almost all Germans profess a love of nature. Many enjoy outdoor activities, such as hiking, bicycling, camping, and skiing. They also enjoy long vacations to take advantage of their country’s scenic landmarks. Most Germans get at least six weeks of paid vacation per year, plus numerous paid holidays and sick days with partial pay.

Primary religious beliefs are split almost evenly between Roman Catholics (24.8%) and Protestants (22.6%).

Many Germans (over 43% of the population - 2022 est.) describe themselves as nonreligious.  Muslims make up less than 4% of the population.

The majority of immigrants are Muslims. Although Germany’s aging population needs their labor, their presence is of great concern.  Some Germans feel that immigrants make an insufficient effort to adopt German customs.

Cultural Orientation

Cognitive Styles: How Germans Organize and Process Information

Germans have historically been closed to outside information, and they did not freely share data among units of the same organization. However, this is changing, and younger employees are more open. Germans are analytic and conceptual in their information processing. They are strongly committed to the universal beliefs of their culture. Friendships are not developed quickly, but they are deep and highly selective.

Negotiating Strategies: What Germans Accept as Evidence

Data, data, data: Germans depend upon objective facts. Emotional involvement is unacceptable in negotiations. Once a position is decided upon, Germans rarely budge, which gives them the reputation for being tough negotiators.

A strong faith in their social democratic ideology influences Germans’ perceptions of the truth.

Value Systems: The Basis for Behavior

One may find some differences in the value systems between what was once East and West Germany. There are also generational differences: for example, the postwar generation is less burdened by guilt over Nazi atrocities. The following three sections identify the Value Systems in the predominant culture—their methods of dividing right from wrong, good from evil, and so forth.

  • Locus of Decision-Making:  A desire to seek consensus and a widespread respect for order are German characteristics. This is reflected in the German phrase: “Ordnung muss sein” (There must be order!). Every German has a responsibility to follow the rules, both written and unwritten. Actions that disrupt this social order are seen as inherently wrong.  Decisions must be made in reference to larger units: society, one’s company, and one’s family.  Curiously, the ability of Germans to compartmentalize allows for substantial individual freedom.  As long as an individual’s duties to society and employer are met, Germans have a wide latitude for private individual behavior.  Decision-making is slow and involved, as all peripheral concerns must be taken care of in the process. Once a decision is made, it is irrevocable. Individual privacy is necessary in all walks of life, and personal matters are not discussed in business negotiations.
  • Sources of Anxiety Reduction:  Germans have a fairly high index of uncertainty avoidance. As a result, Germans use laws and morality to give structure to their worldview.  Germans tend to be risk-averse and cautious about making decisions. They also buy every conceivable sort of insurance: life insurance, fire insurance, theft insurance, travel insurance, personal liability insurance, pet insurance, and so on.  As the German population ages, it can be expected that Germans will become even more risk-averse.  Universal rules and regulations combined with strong internal discipline give stability to life and reduce uncertainty. There is a high need for social and personal order, and a low tolerance for deviant behavior. There is very little show of emotion because of strong internal structures and control.Germans are more oriented toward near-term issues. German skepticism about the future (economic, political, and social) can breed anxiety and pessimism.  There is a sense of helplessness about humanity’s ability to produce a desirable outcome in the long term.
  • Issues of Equality/Inequality:   Titles of nobility were gradually abolished after the First World War, but Germany still has a class system with very little flexibility. Business leaders tend to come from the upper class.  Although equality is guaranteed by law, German businessmen sometimes denigrate women as “lacking self-confidence” and “unable to command male subordinates.”  This is changing, as evidenced by the 2005 election of Angela Merkel, the first female Chancellor of Germany.  One thing is clear: Germans respect self-assurance.  If you don’t project it, whatever your gender or identity, you will not be well-received in Germany.

Legal and Cultural Notes

Excerpted from Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands®: Courtrooms to Corporate Counsels

English long form: Federal Republic of Germany

Short form: Germany

German long form: Bundesrepublik Deutschland

Short form: Deutschland


Distance:                   Approximately 2½ feet (0.76 meters).

Eye contact:              Look directly into your German colleague’s face, and keep relatively consistent eye contact throughout the conversation.

Physical greeting:    Shake hands firmly. Posture is important. Use formal forms of address at first: titles and last names, etc.

Modus Operandi Optimus

Always be prompt!  Time management is so critical in Germany that they have a term for “overpunctuality”—überpünktlichkeit.  As in Japan, many Germans routinely arrive 10 to 15 minutes early for appointments, just to ensure they are not tardy.

Legal System:

Germany uses a civil law system. There are no juries, and there is no witness preparation.  Judges and lay judges examine witnesses first and drive the investigations. Lawyers provide evidence to the judges.


Germany is a federal parliamentary republic. The constitution has been amended many times—the last was in 2012. Articles on basic human rights and freedoms cannot be amended.

Executive Branch:

The president is the chief of state, and the chancellor is the head of government—along with a cabinet or Bundesminister.  The president serves a 5-year term and is eligible for a second term.  The chancellor is appointed by the president following election by the Parliament for a 4-year term.  The executive branch leads the German government’s coalitions.

Legislative Branch:

There is a bicameral Parliament (Parlament), which consists of the Federal Council or Bundesrat(69 seats; members are appointed by each of the sixteen state governments) and the Federal Diet or Bundestag (709 seats: total seats can vary each electoral term).   Members serve 4-year terms.

Judicial Branch:

Highest court(s):

The Federal Court of Justice (127 judges, organized into twenty-five Senates subdivided into twelve civil panels, five criminal panels, and eight special panels) and the Federal Constitutional Court or Bundesverfassungsgericht (which consists of two Senates, each subdivided into three chambers, each with a chairman and eight members).  Federal Court of Justice judges are selected by the Judges Election Committee and appointed by the president of Germany; they serve until their mandatory retirement at age sixty-five.  Half of the Federal Constitutional Court judges are elected by the House of Representatives, and half are elected by the Senate.  Judges serve 12-year terms and have a mandatory retirement age of sixty-eight.

Subordinate courts:

Each of the sixteen German states (Land) has its own constitutional court and a hierarchy of ordinary (civil, criminal, and family) and specialized (administrative, finance, labor, and social) courts.


The euro (€ or EUR) replaced Germany’s Deutsche Mark in 1999. Germans save, love using cash, and loathe personal debt. Schulden(debt) comes from the word Schuld(guilt).  They are generally risk-averse, hold insurance, and hate inflation. Many Germans rent but will pay top dollar for quality items and services.   The German word billion is equivalent to a U.S. trillion.

Communication Style:

Germany is a low context culture. Germans are very direct, say what is on their minds and treat business with the utmost seriousness. Humor is a waste of time at work.

If Germans bluntly criticize your product or company, do not take it personally. Respond logically and thoroughly. Details are paramount. If you cannot provide clear, factual answers to every question, Germans will assume that you are less than competent.

Data drive transactions. Nuanced or subtle conversations may be considered confusing and misleading.

Do not expect to communicate with coworkers after hours. Personal time is sacrosanct, and both private firms and the German Labor Ministry have banned managers from calling, emailing, or texting staff after hours— except in emergencies. See chapter 7 in Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands ® Courtrooms to Corporate Counsels regarding “Silence.”


Begin by explaining your premise—the theory and the process you used to analyze the data.  Show your work—your methodology, your analysis—and then build to the conclusion.  Proceed in a methodical, linear manner. Never jump to your recommendations too soon.  Never revisit topics that have been discussed.  Never surprise your German contacts with unexpected changes.  Prices, support, and delivery dates should all remain consistent.  The final price is expected to be close to the first bid.  Abjure high-pressure sales tactics; be formal and honest.


Privacy is vital—from contract negotiations to personal data.  Google Maps cannot photograph homes; market researchers cannot reveal their subjects’ faces.  Never part with too much data, and be circumspect with social media.  Requesting demographic data on employees is problematic, but, paradoxically, résumés often contain photos, marital status information, and nationality.


Advertising is highly regulated.  It is illegal to compare your product to a competitor’s.  Facts and deductive reasoning gain better results than manic imagery or sex.  Avoid hype and exaggeration.  Consider German priorities carefully before developing an ad campaign: security, logic, family, privacy, stability, and grit.


Don’t wave or gesticulate from a distance.  Wait until someone is close to you before saying “Hello.”  Pursing your lips can indicate “I’m a bit skeptical about this.”

Modus Operandi Malus

Avoid any and all of the following behaviors!

Slouching, keeping your hands in your pockets, invading personal space, leaning or sitting on someone’s car, shaking hands with a gentle grip, talking in an elevator, trying to tell jokes at work, or putting your recycling in the wrong bin (yellow = plastic, green or blue = paper, etc.).

Legal Contribution:   Scott J. Wenner, Partner, Schnader Attorneys  at Law

We are used to “Employment at Will.” That’s a foreign concept in many EU countries. They tend to overreact to the idea of “I can do what I want.” They have different mechanisms in place—tribunals, etc. Reporting another employee at work is extremely disturbing to many people in the EU. The idea of having a hotline to blow the whistle on someone smacks of the KGB, Stasi, or the Secret Police.

Another difference is the termination process. You can’t just pull out of a facility in Europe. Nor can you let someone go as easily as in the USA. Here it’s just severance, continuance, etc. In Germany you have to “consult” with the Worker’s Council or Trade Union. You must discuss your reasoning, and bargain to negotiate the closure. Data on decisions to close, or sell, is held confidentially in the USA. But in the EU, you must come up with a “Social Plan” and consult with the country’s representatives (worker’s council) before you can sell your stock and close.

Cultural Notes

  • Most Germans feel a deep connection to the environment. The historical image of brave German tribesmen successfully resisting the Roman Empire, fighting amidst the vast, majestic forest, is as important to Germans as the conquest of the western frontier is to North Americans. Germany was one of the first countries where a political party with an environmental platform (the Greens) won seats in a national legislature.
  • Like many things in Germany, advertising is highly regulated. It is illegal in an advertisement to compare your product to that of a competitor’s product. You can say that your product is “#1” but you will be required to prove that with objective data.  If you cannot, your ad may be pulled from the airwaves by the German government.
  • German is now printed in Roman fonts similar to the typeface used in our books. The German typefaces known in English as “Gothic” (Germans refer to the most common forms as “Fraktur” or “Schwabacher”) were dropped in the 1930s when studies indicated they were harder to read than Roman typefaces.
  • One factor supporting the German economy is the high rate of savings of the German citizenry. Older Germans tend to save 15 percent of their incomes; younger Germans a percent or two less. Germany has one of the best rates of saving in the European Union.
  • Although Germans save a lot of money, they are also willing to spend money for quality merchandise. Germans expect to pay for quality. And, while individual Germans usually pay on time, many large German businesses do not. German businesses have developed a reputation for not paying until the last possible minute. The problem is so severe that some vendors have had to offer rebates for prompt payment.
  • German negotiators can be very tough customers. Many of them view being forced to compromise as a personal failure. As some observers have noted, “Germans come in expecting 110 percent. They might settle for just 100 percent.”
  • Germany makes some of the finest beer in the world. A German beer drinker will be happy to explain about the local brews, especially the seasonal beers and the specialty brews.
  • If you arrive late to a concert, production, or show, the doors will probably be closed, and you must wait until the intermission to gain access to the event.
  • Germans keep a slightly larger personal space around them than do most British or North Americans, and a much larger personal space than most Latin Americans. Stand about six inches beyond handshaking distance.Germans are also protective about the positioning of their office furniture. When invited into a German office, do not move your chair closer; a German executive could find that very insulting.This expanded personal space extends to their automobiles. Expect an outburst from a German driver if you so much as touch his or her car. Never put a package down on any car except your own.
  • Many foreigners have described Germans as positively manic once they get behind the wheel of a car. Certainly pedestrians must keep an eye on the traffic, especially when crossing the street. However, even when driving, Germans tend to obey traffic regulations. Difficulties arise when foreigners do things that violate unwritten rules, such as jaywalking.
  • If your home region or country has any oddities, be prepared to discuss them. Germans are known for odd hobbies and enthusiasms. For example, Germany has many fans of odd facets of Americana; it is not unusual to run into a German aficionado of cowboy novels, jazz, or zydeco music. If one of your business associates is in this category, an invitation to an event in that area of interest (for example, an evening at a jazz club in NYC, New Orleans, or your hometown) would be greatly appreciated.
  • Keep your thinking linear in Germany. Thorough, methodical planning is how Germans have achieved their reputation for quality. Every aspect of every project will be examined in detail. This process can be very time intensive.
  • It is said that the British and American businesspeople first envision their goal, then plan backward on how to achieve it. The German process is different: Everything is planned from the beginning. From this starting point, each step is meticulously envisioned, until the best possible result is divined. This may be an oversimplification, but it helps to explain why everything seems to take longer in Germany: The planning process is much more extensive.

Safety Tips

  • The greatest hazards to visitors tend to be vehicular accidents. There is also the danger from exposure to cold during Germany’s bitter winters.
  • Periodic flooding is a serious danger and has caused much destruction in low-lying areas.
  • Avalanches and landslides are also hazards. Germany has an active Green Party, which maintains that Germans are in danger from the many toxic waste sites in the former East Germany, as well as from Russian-built nuclear power plants throughout Eastern Europe.

Test Your Knowledge


  1. German literature is known for profound, serious authors. Which one of the following is the bestselling German author of all time?

    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)
    Heinrich Böll (1917–1985)
    Günter Grass (1927– )
    Herman Hesse (1877–1962)
    Thomas Mann (1875–1955)
    Karl May (1842–1912)
  2. Ever since Martin Luther, Germany has been divided between Protestants and Roman Catholics.
    State whether the following statement is True or False.
    Whatever their religious beliefs, most Germans are fond of a Catholic saint named King Gambrinus

  3. In 1948, Adi Dassler started a now-famous company. In 1954, Mr. Dassler's company garnered tremendous publicity when Germany's entire soccer team wore his product and won the World Cup for the first time.
    State whether the following statement is True or False.His company made sneakers.



  1. Karl May (1842-1912)
    An author of cowboy-and-Indian adventures, Karl May was (and is) very popular in Germany.
  2. True
    True. King Gambrinus is the patron saint of beer drinkers and brewers. German legend even credits him with the invention of beer. Many German breweries and taverns display an inscription honoring Gambrinus.
  3. True
    True. Adidas does not really stand for "All Day I Dream About Sports"(or Soccer). The brand is a combination of his first and last name.